My nappictionary: Hair care lingo

Ever since I went nappy I have come across a bunch of terms that I had no clue existed till I went around looking for fro care tips. So I figured I may as well keep track of them here and maybe enlighten a few of y’all in the process. I’ll update the page as I discover more terms/techniques. I have also found that those trying to grow healthy relaxed hair online tend to use the same language and techniques so this is not necessarily for fro females only.

Moisturizing: Refers to the use of products that add moisture to the hair. Moisture is what keeps our hair soft. It can be as simple as spraying some water on your hair. There are numerous products that add moisture to hair including hair sprays, water (aqua) based hair products and conditioners. Oils do not add moisture to hair which brings me to the next term…

Sealing: This is the use of oils or butters to trap the moisture in your hair. Moisturizing is pointless if the hair then dries out. The oils and butters help prevent this. There are some oils that do moisturize (Coconut oil, Argan oil, Grape seed oil etc). The following oils and butters are normally used for sealing: shea butter, mango butter, Olive oil and Castor oil. The thicker oils are generally preferred for sealing. Because you are aiming to seal moisture in your hair it doesn’t make sense to seal dried un-moisturized hair. If you do that, you will end up preventing moisture from getting to your dry hair (Chemistry 101: oil and water don’t mix!). So always seal moisturized hair only. I seal my hair while it’s still damp. If I want to seal without washing, I use a spray bottle to add water to my hair first in addition to a moisturizing product.

Deep conditioning: This is when conditioner is left on your hair for more than 30 minutes; I usually deep condition for an hour at least while some people even deep condition over night. Some opt to steam the hair while conditioning to maximize the amount of moisture being absorbed by your hair.  For fro hair deep conditioning is a must, the nap will not be as soft without it.

Detangling: This is basically combing. Naturals don’t comb with the aim of styling but with the aim of getting tangles out of the hair, hence the difference in terms. In addition to this, combing is normally done from root to tip, detangling is done from tip to root. Detangling is only done while the hair is wet, drenched with conditioner or damp and covered in some sort of moisturizer, it depends on the persons preference. Detangling should not be done when the hair is dry, this causes breakage as natural hair is very fragile and also causes you unnecessary pain.

Pre-poo: A pre-poo (pre-shampoo treatment) is the process of soaking the hair in a moisturizing oil and/or conditioner before shampooing to minimize the amount of essential oils lost through shampooing. Oils mostly used are Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil etc. Some also make mixes with aloe juice, honey or coconut milk. There numerous recipes online to try. I personally don’t pre-poo, I feel like it would be too much work for me however those that do use it are always pleased with the results. It also helps to soften your hair and makes detangling easier.

Clarifying: This is the use of a clarifying shampoo or an acidic agent (baking soda, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice) to cleanse the hair of all the residue that builds up on your hair from hair products. I wrote a post about clarifying here and I do it twice a month. It dries out the hair so it is always followed by a conditioning session.

Curl definition: This is the use of styling products (eg curl mousse, hair gel, oil and gel mix etc) to help the curls in your hair to be more…well, defined! Or enhanced. It can be done with products or through hair manipulation (twist outs, braid outs etc explained below). The curls can be big or small and of varying structures depending on the curl definition method used.

Curls defined using a bantu knot out technique
Curl definition using styling gel via

Twist out/Braid out: This is a type of style often worn by napturals. You twist the hair (two strand twists) or braid it (single thin, medium or thick sizes, it’s up to you) and then leave them over night. In the morning your unbraid/untwist and use your hands to get your hair into a style or you can jus leave it un twisted. This untwisted/unbraided style is referred to as a twist out/braid out.

A twist out

Blow out: This is the use of a blow dryer to blow the afro out. It’s a stretching method as well. (I blogged about using the tension method to blow out my hair here)

My most recent blow out 🙂

The big chop or BC: This refers to the cutting of relaxed ends leaving behind your natural hair or new growth. It is the point at which you become fully natural. Some chose to transition (let the new growth grow out gradually till you are ready to cut off the relaxed ends) while others just go bald or cut it really short and let the natural hair grow out. I transitioned for 6 months or so then did my BC leaving about two to three inches of natural hair.

A few weeks after my big chop!

Hair regimen/routine: This is pretty straight forward but to be honest I didn’t have one till I went natural. Now without fail I shampoo (clarify once every two weeks), deep condition, moisturize, seal and twist once a week. In that order and always without fail. I may change the products but my regimen never changes. Even when it’s braided I follow some kind of routine. It keeps my hair manageable, predictable and helps me track any changes that may take place due to particular products. Consistency is the word. I have no clue what damaged my relaxed hair specifically because I never had a set routine, I would just do what I felt like doing when I felt like doing it.

Natural products: These are products that are either made with organic ingredients or hair products made from foods or products that have no artificial additives in them. Majority of them are often edible and have no mineral oil as a base (the main ingredient) in them (which is how you get the greasy effect). There are product lines that are natural and marketed for natural hair though they would be good for relaxed hair as well. Sadly most of those product lines are not yet readily available in Africa (JO’M is one such product line for natural hair). However there are products that have water (aqua) as a base which would be considered ‘natural’ such as ORS (Organic Root Stimulator) products. I have found that my hair thrives on products with very low concentration of harsh ingredients or with pure organic products, eg aloe juice, shea butter, pure coconut oil etc. That is not to say that ‘non natural’ products do not work, they do when used properly.

Natural products: pure coconut oil, pure aloe juice, JO’M orange oil spray and Tresemme Naturals conditioner (silicone free)

Protective style: A protective style is any style that hides or protects the ends of your hair. The ends are the oldest part of your hair and there are the point of weakness for your hair. Your ends are where your hair breaks, is easily damaged by friction, weather or chemicals. Protective styles keep the ends protected and help prevent breakage or damage. Most braided styles are protective eg cornrows, braids with extensions, weaves etc. Buns are also protective as well as twists.

Protective updo style

Low manipulation style: These are hair styles that limit interaction with your hair. In essence this is a semi-protective style. e.g wash and go (as the name suggests you wash your hair, then go), twist out or braid out. Twist outs and braid outs fit in this category because they can last for a couple of days. With fros, the more you mess with them, the higher the chance of the hair breaking from constant manipulation.

Length retention: The ability of your hair to keep what it grows. If you have split ends for example, you will not be able to retain length because the hair is constantly breaking.  According to this article on Madame Noir the average black person with healthy hair grows about half an inch of hair per month which works out to about 6 inches a year. Genetics of course will vary how much a person grows a month. Some have hair that grows faster or slower. There are things that you can do to help your hair retain length (low manipulation styles, protective styles, keeping it moisturized, minimal use of heat etc). Some of us have to work harder than others though 🙂


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Antoinette says:

    Hi, i found ur blog through African hair blog and i love it and your hair is so beautiful. I was so happy to learn that you are from Botswana…. Im 5 months post relaxer. Initially i just wanted to stretch my relaxer for 8 months to grow my hair line… but 2 days ago i decided i’m going to big chop when i’m 6 months post relaxer and go natural, m so scared and excited at the same time. I have never kept short natural hair in my life…

    1. Ms Z. says:

      I know how nerve wrecking it can be! You’ll be fine though. That’ll be an exciting way to start the new year! And whatever help you need, I’m more than willing to ease you into the nappy lifestyle 🙂 I also began by trying to save my hair line, then I just kept going! You can read these posts for the newly natural: and Don’t feel like you have to know EVERYTHING right now but just get the basic idea. Since you’ve been following African hair blog I’m sure you already have some good healthy hair tips from her. Our products are mostly the same and routines don’t differ much either except for a few things. Excited for you! 🙂

      1. Antoinette says:

        Thank you very much for your words of encouragement and for the links… m very excited 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s